Whether they’re after treetop adventures or skateboard art workshops, Newcastle’s got family-friendly fun for every age group.
Fancy a trip to a harbour city surrounded by golden beaches, iconic swim spots and endless attractions for the young, and the not-quite-as-young?
Newcastle is only a 2.5-hour drive north up the east coast and we’ve come to the party with a handy list of thirteen ‘must-experience’ suggestions:
Say no to non-descript, garden-variety skateboards and yes to having your kids design their own. Held within the Mitch Revs Gallery, the two-hour Mitch Revs Decked Out workshops teaches children eight and up the fundamentals of Skate Deck Art, with a little assistance and inspiration from its professional artists. They can bring their own sketches, or find inspiration from the artwork that lines the gallery walls. Parents in need of a night out might also enjoy the adults-only version called ‘Boards and Beers’.
Take a deep dive into Newcastle’s fascinating history at Newcastle Museum. Housed in three railway workshop buildings, kids (and kidults) will particularly love the theatrics of Newcastle Museum’s Fire & Earth exhibition, while teens will enjoy A Newcastle Story. The museum’s popular Supernova and Mininova exhibitions are temporarily closed but keep your eyes peeled for reopening dates.
Little-known fact about Newcastle’s coastline: more than 35,000 humpback whales pass by during their annual migration. Make the most of it by locking in a two-hour Encounter Tour with CoastXP between the months of June and November and treat the family to the wonder of these magnificent creatures. Can’t visit during that time frame? Don’t worry, they’ve got a variety of tours, year-round.
Welcome to Fort Scratchley, a former coastal defence installation, originally built to defend against the Russions) turned hugely popular museum where much of the action is underground. Providing unique insight into the history of the Fort, the 60-minute Tunnel Tours are a highlight for kids, but don’t forget to tack on some time to explore the museums, galleries and the parade and ceremony grounds above ground. Offering visitors 360-degree views over the city, ocean and harbour, there’s no better place to sit and relax.
Embracing the great outdoors has never been quite as fun as venturing to one of Newcastle’s most popular spots, the 182-hectare nature wonderland that is Blackbutt Reserve. Home to a wealth of wildlife experiences (reptile shows, wildlife feeding sessions, guided tours) the kids are just as likely to enjoy the reserves’ two gargantuan playgrounds.
Encourage your little monkeys to unleash the primate within by committing the family to a TreeTops Adventure Park course. Featuring more than 100 elevated obstacles with rope ladders, tunnels, cargo nets, wobbly bridges and zip lines, there’s no better way to get up close and personal with our great Aussie flora and fauna. Best of all, there’s even a separate course for the (very) little ones.
Starting the day with a scenic two-hour walk and taking in the top sites of The Big Picture Fest artist trail? It’s win/win with Newcastle Afoot’s popular guided walk, an adventure that treats walkers big and small to a behind-the-scenes look at the artwork adding colour to Newcastle’s streets. Concerned about little legs? Not to worry, the two-kilometre walk is considered an easy stroll and, if you prefer, you can also opt for a self-guided walk.
Newcastle’s highest profile seaside destination Nobbys Beach might be popular among the swimmers, surfers and dolphin-watchers among us, but the flat and easy bike path to the breakwall is also perfect for little people on bikes and scooters. Bring your bikes to ride to the breakwall underneath the iconic Nobbys Lighthouse and back, pack a picnic and enjoy the ocean views. Keen to add a little extra oomph to your day out on wheels? Catch the ferry to Stockton from Queens Wharf and check out Stockton Active Hub.
Enjoying a noteworthy reputation as the largest ocean baths in the Southern Hemisphere, Merewether Ocean Baths comprises two pools, one of which with a shallow end is particularly suitable for little ones. Add to that a nearby surfhouse, change room/toilet facilities, nearby cafe’s and restaurants and the ‘Merewether aquarium’ (hint: it’s not the traditional type) and you’ve got the perfect spot for a long and lazy day by the seaside.
Take a 20-minute drive northwest to the Hunter Wetlands Centre and strap yourself in for a full day of nature, wildlife and canoeing. This vibrant wetland ecosystem has a wealth of activities for the kids, from guided buggy tours to Segway adventures but the cherry on top comes with canoe hire, which lets you explore the magic of the wetlands from the water. A playground and cafe are also available onsite.
Spectacular coastal views and pretty walks might be a dime a dozen in these parts, but this, a 450-metre long clifftop walkway that links Strzelecki Lookout to Bar Beach, shouldn’t be missed. Built to commemorate the ANZAC centenary, The ANZAC Memorial Walk also links to Bathers Way promenade development, a six-kilometre coastal walk that takes in Newcastle’s beaches, stretching from Merewether Ocean Baths to Nobbys Beach.
Celebrate local and visiting artists sharing dance, music, contemporary performance and visual art at New Annual, the city’s arts festival. Spanning 10 days (24 September to 3 October, 2021), performances take place at venues across the city with plenty of child-friendly options for all age groups available. No need to worry about dipping your hands endlessly into your pockets; many events are free of charge.
Could Newcastle Art Gallery be Australia’s most family-friendly space for burgeoning artists? Kids can enjoy a plethora of children’s art trails, play in Smart Space – an area set aside for interactive displays, and check out age-appropriate exhibitions. All eyes are on WARWAR: The Art of Torres Strait, a free exhibition to be held 29 May to 22 August, 2021, showcasing the evolution of Torres Strait Islander tradition and society through art from the 19th century to modern-day contemporaries.
Places to eat in Newcastle with the family
Whether you’re after a casual pub meal or something a little more formal, Newcastle has got it all. Try:
- Combining pizza with stunning ocean vistas at the Pizza Kiosk at Merewether Surf House.
- Getting your Mexican groove on at Antojitos. The California-style taqueria has a caravan cubby house little ones adore.
- Enjoying dining alfresco in Scotties’ pretty courtyard – complete with marquee lights and plenty of space for the kids to run around.
- Arguing over whether ‘ice cream’ burgers constitute a meal at Newy Burger Co.
- Enjoying a gelato from perennial favourites Estabar, Popolo Gelateria and Monella.
Places to stay in Newcastle with the family
Dreaming of a spacious spread by the seaside, or a fun holiday park for the kids to run wild? Newcastle’s got the lot.
- Quest Newcastle West: featuring one-, two- and three-bedroom self-serviced apartments, this travel staple has all the creature comforts of a home away from home and is located by the Interchange and light rail.
- Flourish on Bull: a loft-style, two-bedroom apartment close to the beaches, gardens and attractions of the city.
- The Beach House at Merewether: a luxury three-bedroom home located metres from the ocean and offering every mod-con you could ever hope to enjoy.
- Crystalbrook Kingsley: the new kid on the block offers the city’s first five-star experience right in the city centre.